Northern Highlands

This extraordinary funerary site hosts six sarcophagi perched high up a sheer cliff face. Each long-faced tomb is constructed from wood, clay and straw and uniquely shaped like a stylized forlorn individual. The characters stare intently over the valley below, where a Chachapoyas village once stood; you can see stone ruins scattered among the fields today.

Originally there were eight coupled sarcophagi, but two have collapsed, opening up the adjoining coffins – which were found to contain mummies, plus various crafts and artifacts relating to the deceased. Look out for scattered bones below the coffins. Only important individuals were buried with such reverence: shamans, warriors and chieftains. The skulls above the tombs are thought to have been trophies of enemies or possibly human sacrifices.

Karajía is a 25-minute downhill walk from the tiny outpost of Cruz Pata, or you can hire a horse for S15 roun -trip. Minibuses from Chachapoyas travel to Luya (S8, 50 minutes), and then to Cruz Pata (S8, 50 minutes) on a bumpy road.

All said and done, a day tour from Chachapoyas (S80) is the way to go. The trip usually incorporates a visit to the Caverna de Quiocta on the way. Take binoculars and a camera with a good zoom.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Northern Highlands attractions

1. Caverna de Quiocta

2.53 MILES

This large cave is 545m long and guards a spooky selection of stalagmites, stalactites and other trippy rock formations. Also visible around the entrance…

2. Gran Vilaya

8.31 MILES

The name Gran Vilaya refers to the bountiful valleys that spread out west of Chachapoyas, reaching toward the rushing Río Marañón. Abutting the humid…

3. Huancas

10.98 MILES

The tiny and agreeably unkempt village of Huancas (pronounced like the English ‘wankers’!) has a small artisan community making clay pots the old…

4. Mirador Luya Urco

11.09 MILES

A 10-minute stroll northwest along Salamanca brings you to this modest lookout with a city panorama.

5. Instituto Nacional de Cultura Museo

11.53 MILES

This small museum on the Plaza de Armas houses mummies found throughout the region, plus ceramics from several pre-Columbian periods and one of the…

6. Church

11.54 MILES

This whitewashed church, officially known as the Catedral San Juan Bautista, sits on the Plaza de Armas. Its heavy black wooden doors rarely seem to open…

7. Mirador Cañón del Sonche

11.55 MILES

The joy of this steep-sided canyon that cuts like a deep gash through the Northern Highlands is that you’re barely aware it’s there until you are…

8. Yalape

13.04 MILES

This largely unexcavated archaeological site dates from around AD 1100 and is located 17km south of Chachapoyas near the village of Levanto. A visit here…